“So, what’s your New Year’s Resolution?”
- The question on everyone’s lips these days. While the most common answers fall in line with physical changes (hitting the gym, losing weight), the New Year is the perfect time to focus on our mental and emotional health as well by beginning a meditation practice.
- Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.
“So, why meditate?”
- It helps your other resolutions succeed. Mindful meditation can increase focus and resolve which can help you stick to the goals you’ve set for yourself in the new year.
- It supercharges the mind by improving our working memory (the area of our brain that computes immediate information and assists in solving life’s daily tasks) and our ability to quickly “shift gears.”
- Meditation is the ultimate “self care.” As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. When you take time to replenish yourself, you can serve others from the overflow, resulting in happier and more fulfilling relationships.
“So, how do you get started?”
- Meditation can be done anywhere you choose! For individual meditation, I recommend setting up space in your home that is just yours. Make it comfy with pillows, blankets, etc., and away from distractions. You can sit or lie down with closed eyes. Begin by focusing your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
- Maintain this practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer.
- There are also a number of apps that offer guided meditations in as little as 10 minutes. In addition, a number of yoga studios and health clubs offer group meditations.
- By choosing to commit to a meditation practice, you are creating a mindset for success and self-love that will carry you throughout your day-to-day life.
Supercharge your BODY
Written by Chessi May, Instructor at Breathe Yoga in Shreveport
Deep Conscious Breathing slows the heartbeat and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which soothes the nervous system and allows the muscles to relax into the stretches.
Off your mat you learn to approach life’s challenges with this same sense of calmness and peace. You learn to overcome your self-perceived limitations by being at one with your mind and body in a place of grace and ease.
Triangle Pose (Sanskrit: Trikonasana)
- This pose is amazing for opening the sides of your waist, which for most of us is an often neglected area. Chronically tight side bodies can cause alignment issues, as well as pain and discomfort.
- Triangle pose opens the side hip. This area of the body tends to be overly tight in those who walk, run, or cycle. You may find that opening the sides of your hips helps you to feel less overall hip pain in daily life. It also strengthens the core muscles. Your abdominal and back muscles will work hard to keep you standing and balanced in this pose.
- Extended Triangle pose stretches the legs, groins, hips, shoulders, chest and spine. It strengthens the feet, ankles and legs. Practicing this twist will stimulate the abdominal organ which aids in digestion.
Seated Lotus Twist (Sanskrit: Parivrtti Padmasana)
- Twisting the torso around the spine tones and detoxifies the abdominal organs, including the kidneys, liver, and spleen. This will help cleanse your body and improve your overall health. Regularly practicing twists, such as Revolved Half Lotus will boost your energy levels, reduce fatigue, and calm your mind.
Extended Side Angle Pose (Sanskrit: Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- Find length in your side body from your heel to your fingertips with Extended Side Angle Pose.
- Side Angle relieves stiffness in the shoulders and back. It stretches the groins, spine, waist, chest and shoulders.
- The twist stimulates and massages abdominal organs while this variation of a lunge increases stamina, endurance and balance. It is therapeutic for digestive issues, infertility, sciatica and low back pain.
- This energetic asana will tone your hips, butt, and thighs.
Lizard Lunge (Sanskrit: Utthan Pristhasana)
- Utthan Pristhasana pose gives a deep stretch to the lower abdomen including the pelvic area. The pelvic floor muscles provide foundational support for the reproductive organs.
- Lizard Lunge tones the gluteus maximus muscles that are used for walking, running and extending the thigh. The deep stretch at the lower abdomen improves flexibility surrounding the hip. This pose also lengthens the hamstring and quadricep muscles to strengthen the legs.
- Lizard Lunge is a mild versatile exercise that strengthens the groin and inner hamstrings while preparing the body for deeper hip openers.
Seated Lotus Forward Fold (Sanskrit: Padmasana)
- Lotus Pose has the power to settle your nerves, awaken your energy, and quiet your mind.
- Lotus is one of yoga’s quintessential poses. The arrangement of your hands and feet in the pose resembles the petals of a lotus flower—the blossom that grows from its base in the mud to rest above the water and open to the sun.
- This pose opens the hips, knees, and ankles; stretches the hip flexors and sacral area; and orients the pelvis and femurs in a strong external rotation. By practicing Padmasana regularly you can greatly reduce overall fatigue as well as awaken numerous health benefits. Along with increased flexibility, some of these benefits include less anxiety, increased awareness, good posture and reduced sciatic pain. This pose can also alleviate insomnia, improve digestion and strengthen joints. It helps to increase circulation in the lower spine as you energize and tone the abdominal muscles and organs
Three-Legged Down Dog (Sanskrit: Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- In this variation of Downward Facing Dog, Three-legged Down Dog has all the same benefits. But with one leg up in the air, it offers further benefits and the fun challenge that comes from working with asymmetrical balance.
- Even though you are standing on two hands and one leg, use core strength to square the shoulders and pelvis. This is the key to finding stability when you begin to lift one leg.
Downward Facing Dog (Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Breathing evenly in Downward facing dog calms the brain and relieves stress and mild depression. It energizes the body while stretching and strengthening the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands. Downward Facing Dog relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue. And it’s therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica and sinusitis. It can help to prevent osteoporosis and also improve digestion.
- Downward Facing dog creates space inside the torso for better organ function.
Scorpion Handstand (Sanskrit: Vrischikasana)
- An advanced variation of handstand that opens the chest and heart through a backbend. Deep back bending in this pose requires core strength and mental focus to stay balanced and aware.
Handstand (Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
- Rooting the hands into the mat challenges the body’s equilibrium and reverses the effects of gravity (e.g. compression and shortening of the spine). The reversed flow of blood aids in tissue regeneration. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm promotes a deeper exhalation which increases the amount of carbon dioxide that is removed from the lungs.
- Yoga Handstand also stretches the abdomen and strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists. Handstand increases mental clarity, awareness and the capacity to focus. Increased blood flow in Yoga Handstand is also linked to stress release and reduced depression. So not only does it renew the body, but it also re-centers the mind. Handstand builds confidence and brightens the spirit.
Supercharge your SPIRIT
Written by Lindsay Heard
Our lifestyles are ones of packed calendars, busy daily schedules, and demanding commitments that leave us exhausted, empty, and unengaged at the end of the day. We are constantly squeezing out every millisecond of the day to be able to fit in all that we “need” to do. We have trained ourselves to think that busyness is productivity, abundant living, and soul-satisfying. I am the guiltiest of the guilty in this aspect of my life. If I am not careful, I will quickly allow my life to be overtaken by my calendar and my to-do lists. This way of living truly depletes us so much that when we finally make it to our free time to rest and restore ourselves, we can do nothing more than mindless consumption of social media or television.
What if I told you that by adding something to your schedule could actually lessen the burdens of the busy life?
God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10) The words be still may be foreign to most of us. These words may be terrifying to others. Or they may be words that seem so far out of reach that we laugh at the thought of being still. When, where, and how am I going to be still? Regardless of your reaction to “be still,” many of us have lost the art of being still and being in the presence of God.
Jesus says that “in me you have peace.” (John 16:33; emphasis mine)
Oh, how I wish I could meet you face to face and look you in the eyes and proclaim to you the power of being in the presence of the Prince of Peace. Peace – that is what we are all searching for and hoping for and yearning for. If you are a follower of Christ, Jesus is our Peace. When we intentionally seek Him and add space in our lives for this, His abundance fills us. We live in and through His peace. We are no longer running on empty, but we are filled and made whole and able to peaceably live with a different perspective and purpose.
Jesus said, “I have come to give you abundant life.” No longer do you have to live burdened and weary lives because He calls all who are weary and offers rest.
How do we live in His peace? How do we let go of the busyness and trade it for an abundant life that is balanced with rest, peace, and purpose? How do we experience the “peace which transcends all understanding” that God offers us?
We be still and know. We pray. We gaze at Him and worship Him.
I cannot help but be drawn to the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha was a woman who opened her home to Jesus as He was passing through their town of Bethany. By this time, Jesus had already performed miracles, was known as a great teacher, and had been declared Messiah and Son of God. Can you feel the pressure that Martha must have felt to open up her home to someone of such great importance? She (just as I would) was so consumed with preparing her home, making sure everything was just right, and checking things off her to do list that when Jesus actually arrived, we see that Martha’s heart was not prepared to be in His presence, to really soak in who He was. The Bible says that she was “distracted, worried and upset.” Martha was very busy. On the other hand, we see Mary in this story who was a woman who did not allow the busyness of all the preparations to distract her from whom she was actually about to be in the presence of.
She chose to let go of the to do list in order to make room to be still.
We see her in the story “sitting at the feet of the Lord listening to what He said.” I imagine Mary gazing at Jesus, in awe of who He was, soaking up everything He said and everything He offered.
We too are called to sit at the feet of Jesus and gaze at Him. We must intentionally choose to spend time with Him through the act of being still and praying. This is how we find soul restoration, renewal, and revival. When we are spending time with Him, fixing our eyes on the One who offers rest, praying to Him, we cannot help but be transformed by Him. He renews us. He restores us. He fills us with peace.
Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is our lifeline to God, a vital part to our relationship with our Father. Conversation is the way we most connect with people in our lives; therefore, it is only fitting that this an essential part to growing in our faith and relationship with Jesus. We cannot expect to live a life loving Him without talking to Him, without breathing Him in.
We can pray anytime, anyplace, and in any way, but I also believe that it is essential to have a specific time for prayer. When we set aside time to talk with God and listen to Him, we are preparing our hearts to love Him, worship Him, and receive Him. When we are in constant communication with God, we can feel His closeness, His peace, His joy. When we are not abiding in Him, our eyes are often drawn away from Him and instead consumed with all of the other preparations just like Martha was. This produces a life where the burdens of busyness leave us exhausted because we are not living out our purpose in Him. We are not resting in Him. Our lives become more about ourselves and less about what we were created for…loving Him and others.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!…The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
St. Augustine once prayed, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it finds its rest in Thee.” We all know what it is like to have an inner restlessness that brings about the exhaustion and emptiness we experience in this life. Once we choose not be estranged from our God, we will be filled with His holy peace that transforms us and calms our restless souls. We will be made whole, complete, and restored in Him. We will find true rest in Him.
I encourage and challenge you to add the most important thing to your calendar each day as we start this new year. Schedule a time to be still and know that He is God. Spend time in prayer, thanking Him, praising Him, asking Him for the peace, rest, and restoration He has promised.
Shared in love, Lindsay Heard